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How a new Biden administration plan to end homelessness could help Greater Cincinnati

joe biden
Andrew Harnik

The Biden administration wants to cut homelessness by 25% in the next three years, and eventually eliminate it entirely. It outlined how it plans to do that in a new strategy released Dec. 19.

Among the proposals: boost production of housing; focus on racial disparities; reduce the number of veterans experiencing homelessness; and spend more money on preventing homelessness in the first place. Strategies to End Homelessness President and CEO Kevin Finn says that last point is key.

"One, it costs a lot less to prevent someone from becoming homeless," he says. "So with the same amount of money you can help more people. Two, it saves people the trauma of experiencing literal homelessness."

Finn says it's about a third as expensive to prevent someone from experiencing homelessness as it is to provide services once they're without a home. But under current federal rules, he says, the money organizations like his get from the federal government must go to responding directly to those already experiencing homelessness and can't go to prevention. If that federal policy does change, as the Biden administration's new plan suggests it could, it would mean a lot more resources for prevention.

Part of that prevention strategy outlined in the 103-page document — the result of collaboration by 19 federal agencies and input from more than 500 people who experienced homelessness — is the creation of more housing. The plan promises more resources and incentives for that. The housing production element comes as America faces a housing crisis and as federal tax credits that fund the development of new affordable housing havefallen behind inflation.

Another element of the Biden administration's homelessness plan involves focusing in on racial disparities tied up in decades of federal, state and local policies and in market practices that discriminated against Black and Indigenous people and those with Latino or Hispanic ethnicity.

Though Black people make up about 12% of America's population, they account for more than 37% of people experiencing homelessness. Similar disparities exist for Indigenous people and those with Latino or Hispanic ethnicity.

Finn says the disparities are similar locally. He's hopeful about the federal plan.

"Black people are a quarter of the local population, but they're two-thirds of our homeless population," he said. "Maybe we'll start to see some of those things correct themselves."

Nick has reported from a nuclear waste facility in the deserts of New Mexico, the White House press pool, a canoe on the Mill Creek, and even his desk one time.